Two women from Maine. Roxanne, who is gliding her way into retirement — she’s down to three days a week. And Leslie, who retired for the third (and last) time in the fall of 2017.
When you hear what they’re up to, you might wonder if retirement is really meant for either of them. They’re writing a book together called Voices from the Other Side…of Retirement. It’s meant to be a guide for women who are about to retire.
Our vision for the book is that we’re going to have advice from women from all walks of life who can speak about their experiences and share their insights. Their advice will be along the lines of what they wish they knew — if I knew then what I know now.
When I was retiring for the third time, I started thinking about all the people I’d talked to who had also retired. Some people were actually retired, others had been forced to retire through layoffs and weren’t very happy about it. Some people didn’t know what to do with themselves. What struck me was how diverse people’s responses were.
Leslie and Roxanne, who are friends, were having lunch together when Leslie mentioned that “this whole thing about retirement” interested her. She wanted to do some research because the people she had been talking to seemed to be all over the place. As Roxanne listened, Leslie suddenly asked if she wanted to do it with her and got an enthusiastic high five.
At first, we decided to do informal telephone polls. We picked 10 or 15 women we each knew and asked them what retirement was like, what surprised them about it, what was easy about it, that kind of thing. We compared notes afterward and found that although everybody’s retirement was a little bit different and obviously very personal, there were some common themes that were just screaming out at us. The impact on relationships, structuring their time, those kinds of things.
Every person they interviewed told them they should write a book. And so they are. They created a website Retirement Voices and a Facebook page. They put more thought into what they wanted to ask women, uploaded the questionnaire to the website, and are now in the process of gathering the answers. Hundreds of women from around the country have been contributing.
The biggest group chose retirement on their own terms and wrote about the freedom and the chance to reinvent themselves and give back. A number retired to become caretakers, which probably isn’t surprising because it’s typically a female role. One or two retired because of their own health issues, which drove them to think about how much time they have left and what they might do with that time. We also heard from a couple of women who retired involuntarily. They’re quite angry because they lost their jobs or were downsized and didn’t want to be.
I think the book will affirm the fact that there is no one definition of retirement. It’s whatever you want it to be and you can define it whatever way you want. That’s one of the beauties of being a woman in this day and age. We baby boomers broke new ground in the working arena and we’re forging new territory in retirement, as well.
They’re soliciting responses until the end of April. If you are a woman and want your retirement voice heard, set aside what you’re doing and visit their website. Here’s the direct link to the questionnaire. You’re entirely welcome.
Something that has surprised Leslie and Roxanne is how many women have thanked them for the opportunity to step back and reflect on what they want their retirement to look like. And what advice to the authors have to share about their own retirement stories?
What I would say to women is take your time and move into it slowly. I think when you’ve been working full time and then all of a sudden you’re not, you tend to think that you have to fill your time and accomplish things. Turn off the alarm clock and catch up on your sleep. Then start exploring, but don’t start off overcommitting yourself.
I’m still looking at it from this side of retirement and what Leslie says resonates with me because I am so looking forward to having a life without deadlines for a while. I don’t think that I would be happy with a completely unstructured calendar or day but to be able to wake up in the morning and have a day to feel whatever way I want just sounds divine.
Retirement is kind of like being a kid in a candy store. There are so many things to try. You just need to pick a few and if you don’t like them put them back and pick another few things.
When you visit Retirement Voices to fill out the questionnaire, you’ll also find out more about Roxanne and Leslie and their careers.